In a previous article, I brought up a broad overview of Buddhist psychology and its implications for understanding sexuality. In this article, I want to expand on that a little bit more and talk about some more specific ideas that the Buddha taught. Specifically, I’ll be drilling down to focus on four key concepts (what the Buddha called the “four qualities of love”) which lay at the heart of the Buddha’s teachings, and that also hold specific implications to modern sexuality.

Let’s begin. The first quality is called metta– translated as loving kindness. And by this we mean actions, not just thoughts and feelings. The thought that comes to my mind about acting towards others in a manner of loving kindness, specifically when it comes to sexuality, is the importance of consent. Indeed, as I’ve written about before, what often separates sexual “deviance” from just simply kinky non-normative sexuality is consent, or lack thereof. This is a very trick and thorny issue because consent is often quite complex. Unfortunately, in most relationships, the issue of consent is never adequately addressed or discussed in matters of sex, or otherwise. Great sex, however, requires the trust that comes from a direct discussion of defining what is consensual and what is not. Terrible sex, on the other hand, often involves no discussion, no negotiation, and just either carrying one’s desires in secrecy or acting out on them non-consensually.

Next is karuna– translated as compassion. And not just compassion for others, but also compassion for oneself. As I’ve written about here and here, self-compassion is one of the hardest lessons to learn when it comes to acceptance of our sexualities and dealing with any form of sexual difficulties. Lack of compassion is tied into not just the troubles of performance anxiety (think about it, the more judgmental you are of yourself, the more you will develop anxiety around future expectations of performance), but really to most mental health issues in general. All manner of anxiety (generalized, social), depression and interpersonal difficulties (those who are most likely to judge others are those who judge themselves) are correlated to self-judgment and harsh self-criticism.


The third quality is mudita– joy at well-being and happiness of others, Another word for this would be compersion, a word used in poly circles to mean experiencing pleasure due to one’s partner’s pleasure. This doesn’t mean that one should try having a go with some form of consensual non-monogamy (CNM). No, rather, approaching sexuality with the perspective of win-win, or your pleasure is also my pleasure, will lead to much more fulfilling and pleasurable sexual encounters. In contrast, I see folks in practice who are operating under a zero-sum game (I win, you lose) philosophy that is often borne from a scarcity mentality. When we are able to tap into a feeling of abundance (and I know that’s easier said than done), it allows us to more fully experience compersion and immerse ourselves fully in the sexual experience.

And finally, we have upekkha– or equanimity, acceptance, understanding. What the Buddha is referring to here is being able to keep an even keel emotionally, regardless of the nature of our troubles. In my mind, and as it relates to sexuality, this concept is all about self-acceptance, and I’ve written about the importance of radical self-acceptance before. I think that previous article on self-acceptance sums it up so succinctly, that I will just refer my readers to read it (or reread it) to gather all of my thoughts on just how crucial of a role self-acceptance plays in our well-being and sexual health.


Now let’s put all this together using modern terminologies rather than old pali words (pali is the ancient language in which the canonical Buddhist texts were written). When we talk about the Buddha’s four qualities of love, what I believe we are really discussing is a combination of consent, compassion (self and other), compersion, and self-acceptance. And these are all of the things that I’ve been blogging about over the course of the last few years. And think about it, isn’t that what great sex is all about? Beginning from a starting point of self-acceptance, we negotiate the sex that we want (consent), within the framework of pleasure in fulfilling each other’s pleasure (compersion), and with the compassion to take difficulties that may come up in stride.

What does this look like in real life? Imagine two people getting together who approach their sexual encounter with full transparency and full disclosure of their sexual proclivities and needs. This is self-acceptance. They then discuss which of those proclivities and needs they will engage with in that particular encounter. This is negotiating consent. Once engaged in sex, they actively take pleasure in satisfying each other’s needs. This is compersion. And finally, if things don’t go exactly as planned (and when does it ever), both individuals have the compassion to take it in stride and see the beauty within each other and within the experience they just had. Compassion.


Mix in a little of all four. And what you get is great sex. And what makes it great? Not big, hard cocks. And tight firm buttocks. Not great technique. Or athlete level endurance. No. Just two people engaging in a deeply connective act. And treating each other like two decent human beings. So what it comes to down to is great sex is more about personal authenticity, non-judgment, transparency, consensuality, and again, compassion. In the end, great sex is simply about revealing and truly seeing each other’s humanity.